As anyone who owns a business knows, having a strong online presence is fundamental to your success. Whether you own or run a small or mid-size business or manage a large corporation, finding an SEO agency that will get results for your company is one of the most important investments you can make. Developing an image, creating a lasting impression and implementing a website that will maximize each user’s experience are a few core marketing objectives most business owners set out to accomplish when establishing their digital footprint.
However, your website’s search engine optimization – or lack thereof – may be the make-it-or-break-it difference in your company’s overall success. After all, if your customers can’t find you in a simple Google search, they may not even know you’re out there. Improving your site’s search engine ranking is not only a determining factor in your visibility, but your profit margin.
Whether you’re looking to revise your current website or are building your online presence from the ground up, chances are you have several SEO goals in mind: you want to drive as much relevant traffic as possible to your site while improving your page rank and overall visibility in Google’s search engine. Perhaps you haven’t found the right keyword strategy to drive brand awareness in your current marketing efforts, or you simply haven’t seen a difference in sales within your existing optimized site. And like many other companies, you’re ready to find an agency that will not only improve your company’s online presence but your bottom line.
Finding a suitable SEO agency that is scalable to your business’s specific needs may be elusive until you’ve done your homework. So before you make a decision, it’s essential to identify several key components that a potential agency or consultant can offer your business. Below, a helpful checklist of questions to keep in mind during your agency search:
Are You Experienced?
Although it may seem like a fairly obvious question, knowing how experienced your SEO agency or consultant is can make all of the difference when determining if they’re going to successfully boost your profits and raise brand awareness. Ask prospective agencies for examples of their work – online portfolios and case studies should be available on their company website, and client testimonials are also worth reviewing during your research.
Be sure to investigate the authenticity of clientele reviews by researching the company elsewhere online – for example, sites such as Glassdoor provide free company reviews at a glance. You can also visit the Better Business Bureau to investigate their professional reputation. If possible, you may wish to go one step further and contact several businesses that have used the agency’s services to obtain an honest review and see what their professional experience was like.
How Do You Rank?
One of the most transparent ways of determining an SEO agency’s success is by checking their own SEO – if they’re not ranking well within their industry, they probably won’t be able to help with your rankings, either. Conducting a quick keyword-appropriate industry search on Google to see if they come up on the first page of Google is an easy way to ascertain how effective their optimization strategies really are. For example, if you were to query “Digital Marketing Agency San Diego”, does the company you’re considering for the job appear on the first page of Google? Beyond PageRank, here are a few other questions to take into consideration:
- How does their site rank locally?
- Is their meta description both compelling and cohesive?
- Do they have a strong online presence?
- Is their Google+ page is set up?
- What other results pop up when you conduct a branded search?
What’s Your Strategy?
Although the whole point of hiring a professional consultant or agency is to ‘leave it to the experts’, it’s still important to know the fundamentals of the SEO strategies they plan to implement. Presenting you with a clear outline – such as the tools they’ll be using, optimization methodologies, strategies to increase your site’s website search engine ranking, and a projected timeline – are all reasonable expectations.
You may also want to ask about specific information regarding these or other related topics during your consultation; the more educated you are about the SEO strategies, the better equipped you’ll be to discuss your company’s needs while understanding the marketing analytics entailed. Staying abreast of current SEO trends on sites such as Moz is helpful, particularly if you aren’t familiar with best practices or are unfamiliar with how search engines work.
Do You Follow Google Guidelines?
Although most reputable professionals know the ABC’s of SEO best practices, it’s still advisable to be aware of Google’s publicly-posted webmaster best practices. Any potential agency you hire should know which SEO tactics to avoid, such as adding spammy links, hidden texts or posting spammy content. If Google’s guidelines aren’t followed, it could lead to low search results ranking, or even worse, being banned from Google’s search engines altogether. Also, experts note that it’s impossible to guarantee a number-one ranking on any search engine, so if they make such claims, consider it a red flag.
How Will You Report On My Site’s Results?
Because of the coding changes that occur to your existing web page during the search optimization process, it’s important to be aware of your agency’s strategies and how they plan on reporting on your site’s results, along with any adjustments made (and on how many website pages). With that said, be sure to speak up before any alterations are made to your website – if you want to grant the SEO agency permission to contact you before doing so, make it clear during your consultation and establish your modes of communication at the onset of any project.
While some clients prefer to be briefed frequently, others may wish to schedule face-to-face meetings or arrange a Skype or conference call session. As a client, you should be made aware of any changes occurring within your site and updated accordingly.
Experts also warn against going with an SEO agency that won’t freely discuss their methods in detail: proceed with caution if faced with a consultant or agency who dodges pointed questions, refuses to provide tactics or tools they’ll be utilizing, or answers your questions with vague or generalized rhetoric.
How Invested Are You In My Company’s Success?
While any vendor can claim they care about your company or how well you do, the bottom line unfortunately for many agencies is monetarily driven. So you may be asking yourself – how do I identify an SEO agency that stands behind its work? In this case, it is just as important to take note of the questions they ask you during your consultation, as they should be interviewing you to better establish your specific needs as a customer while identifying your current SEO status and end goals.
They may ask for access to your analytics, and ultimately, should provide you with the best return on your investment. Because your SEO consultant or boutique agency may initially ask a myriad of questions to properly represent your brand and aesthetic online, be sure to provide them with as much information as possible – in order to create compelling content that will convert to increased page rankings, organic traffic and search leads, they’ll need to learn as much about your business as possible. An SEO company with integrity will exemplify these characteristics – the more detail-oriented and the deeper the research, the more it will reveal how much they care about the services they’re providing to your business.
Related: How to Balance SEO and Branding
In summary, identifying an SEO agency that will simultaneously meet your business objectives and budget while increasing your bottom line is no small feat; however, if you conduct the proper research and stay current with regard to best practices, you can find a suitable consultant or digital marketing agency to strategically optimize your digital presence. To recap:
- Ask potential clients about their expertise as exemplified by successful campaigns and a robust portfolio
- Research the agency’s online SEO presence across multiple platforms
- Inquire about their proposed strategies and request a transparent outline and projected timeframe for short and long-term goals
- Confirm that the SEO agency you’re hiring adheres to Google’s best practices, as well as Bing and Yahoo’s search engine guidelines
- Determine how the agency will report results, analytics and other findings; establish an effective mode of communication
- Decide if they are a company dedicated to your success